Hello, and welcome to my blog! My name’s Mark, and I’m a Quaker theologian from the UK. I have the privilege of being a tutor at Woodbrooke, an international Quaker learning and research organisation based in Britain. Although there can often be cross-over between what I write on this blog and what I teach, this blog expresses my own personal views. These views may not reflect the opinions of my colleagues, employer or even the majority of Quakers in Britain! Since I began blogging in 2013, ‘Jolly Quaker’ has been a space where I offer my own individual theological voice to the messy and exciting conversation that is the Quaker faith community and the Christian tradition from which it springs.
Why ‘Jolly Quaker’?
Well, I’m both a Quaker and a rather jolly fella. I became a member of the Religious Society of Friends when I was 20, and I love anything brimming with joy like a good meal, laugh, dance or sing.
But there’s another layer to it. Soon after becoming a Quaker I came across ‘A Testament of Devotion’ by the Quaker mystic Thomas Kelly. This became a foundational spiritual book for me. A line that particularly struck me was ‘I’d rather be jolly Saint Francis singing his canticle to the sun, than a dour sobersides Quaker.’ I want to be both! C. S. Lewis, another of my favourite writers, said that ‘joy is the serious business of heaven’. I’m serious about joy.
The Quaker/St. Francis combination also speaks to my seeing Quakerism as part of the wider Christian tradition. I describe myself as a ‘Quaker-shaped Christian’ rather than a ‘Christian-shaped Quaker’. The Jesus story is how I make sense of my life and the world, and Quakerism is the lens through which I interpret the Jesus story. So this blog has an ecumenical focus. I want to speak to my fellow Quakers, and offer a Quaker perspective that may be helpful to the wider Christian church.
I also aspire to offer useful theology. Theology is ‘words about God’, and I think the words and ideas we use to make sense of our religious experience matter. Making sure these words and ideas do their job properly is time well spent. Some theology can be obscure, highly technical and irrelevant. There’s a lot of theology that is damaging and dangerous. But the answer to bad theology isn’t no theology, it’s better theology. So I hope to offer words and ideas about God that are readable, useful and make sense. When you comment on my posts you help me do this better. Thanks for reading!
A little more about me…
My theological interests include: hope, eschatology (theology of ‘final things’), the book of Revelation and apocalypticism, queer spirituality, intentional community, the roots and early years of Liberal Quakerism (1890-1930), postliberal theology and the theology of Jürgen Moltmann. I have burgeoning interest in theological anthropology (theology of the human person) and theology and whiteness. I also get enthusiastic about classical music, sci-fi and epic fantasy, and the Eurovision Song Contest. And I’m pretty sure dancing with my friends in a gay club is as close to heaven on earth as it gets.
My first book, Quaker Shaped Christianity: How the Jesus story and the Quaker Way fit together, is due to be published in 2022.
In 2019 I completed a MA in Systematic and Philosophical Theology with the University of Nottingham. My thesis was titled ‘Towards a Quaker Theology of Hope: postmodern Quaker eschatology through the lens of narrative’.
From August 2014 to August 2015, my husband and I embarked on a ‘purposeful adventure’, exploring faith-based intentional communities in the US and the UK. You can see me talking about it here and start reading about it here.